All of Bermuda deserves a say on controversial plans to run commercial quad bike tours in sensitive areas of the West End, one of the men behind the proposal said yesterday.
Rudolph “Buddy” Hollis said: “It’s a venture that is designed specifically to cater to a new tourist market and input from people from all over the island is significant.”
All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are under consideration to conduct tours along the Railway Trail and protected areas in Sandys.
The plan came under fire from residents, farmers and environmental groups last year.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, Minister of Public Works, said this month: “If you live east of White Hill, you don’t get a say in this.”
Mr Hollis, the former director of planning, said that he thought Colonel Burch’s comment had been “misinterpreted”.
He said he was told by the minister that there had been 600 objections received to the scheme, with about two thirds from people outside the West End.
Mr Hollis said he was advised that the concerns of residents outside Sandys were the same as people who lived in the parish.
He added: “I believe that part of what he was saying is that if you are writing to say that these vehicles are going to be noisy and they’re going to disturb my amenity and you live in St George’s, for example, how it is going to disturb you?”
Mr Hollis, 63, who lives in Sandys, said: “There have been some people who have spearheaded a lot of the objections.”
He added that the idea that the tour proposal is shrouded in secrecy was wrong.
He said: “We went through every legislative process that was needed.”
Mr Hollis showed The Royal Gazette a list that detailed a dozen presentations that he said were provided on the proposal dating back to June 2015.
The presentations were made to representatives from organisations including the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Transport Control Department and the Parks Commission.
Mr Hollis said: “There’s something about Bermudians that they feel there is an entitlement to be able to know everything that is going on. My response to that is that we don’t have to come to you to ask your permission when I have to go to the Government to seek permission.
“When you go through the government system, they have a proper structure in place which solicits objections.”
Mr Hollis added the ATVs would be regulated to keep speeds below 10mph.
He said a maximum of eight vehicles would be in use at any time — six tour participants and two guides.
Mr Hollis said his son, Shane, 34, who is also involved with the business, had measured the noise created by an ATV at 10mph at about 80 decibels.
He added: “He said that his bike was louder.”
Mr Hollis said: “We’re not going on any trails that are not currently being used by motorised traffic.”
He added that some people believed legislative changes were being sought to allow ATVs to operate on the Railway Trail.
He said: “That’s not what we’re looking to do.”
Mr Hollis added that a presentation made to the Ministry of Public Works explained that the business would be prepared to make sure certain areas of the Railway Trail were maintained.
He added: “We told them we weren’t going to maintain the whole trail, but we would work in conjunction with them to ensure that they are kept maintained. That commitment still exists today.”
Mr Hollis said that the ATVs were about exciting young visitors.
He explained: “Now you’ve got their interest, you take them to Fort Scaur, and then you start explaining how Fort Scaur was built and why it was built.
“You take them to the Heydon Trust property, for example. You can now tell them this is an example of traditional Bermuda architecture.”
Mr Hollis said that generations of his family had shown tourists around the island — from his grandfather using a horse and buggy, to his father using a taxi.
Mr Hollis, who also has a taxi licence, said that he took a family of four, including an 18-year-old, out for a tour in his cab last September.
He added: “The 18-year-old just sat in the back completely bored.
“It dawned on me that an 18-year-old on vacation with his parents is not going to want to sit in a taxi all day.
“The minute I told him what we were trying to do, and I showed him one of these pictures, he said, ‘Yeah, I would do that’.”